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Future Direction of the Population Health Science Special Interest Group

Teresa M. Smith, PhD, Population Health Science SIG incoming chair; and Lila J. Finney Rutten, PhD, Population Health Science SIG co-chair

The Population Health Science Special Interest Group (PHS SIG) will convene a discussion of our future direction at the upcoming 37th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) to be held in Washington, DC, March 30-April 2. As incoming chair, Dr. Smith sat down with Dr. Finney Rutten, outgoing chair and co-chair for the 2016-2017 term, to discuss the direction of the PHS SIG over the next three years.

The PHS SIG first formed in December 2012 with the intent of bringing together behavioral researchers, and was recognized as a Group-in-Formation at the 34th Annual Meeting in 2013. In 2014, the PHS SIG co-sponsored a symposium with the Child and Family Health SIG and the Complementary and Integrative Medicine SIG, and in 2015, hosted a breakfast roundtable that focused on emerging issues in behavioral medicine in population health. In 2015, the PHS SIG had significant involvement with shaping the overall conference theme and planning the plenary sessions for the Annual Meeting. Thus, the focus of the 2015 Annual Meeting was on the role of behavioral medicine in enacting the strategic directions of the National Prevention Strategy put forth by the National Prevention Council. The science presented throughout the 2015 Annual Meeting in paper and poster sessions, symposia, panels, and seminars offered evidence of our readiness and potential as a society to inform and influence efforts to improve population health.

Current members of the PHS SIG are moving this agenda forward! Our SIG has grown quickly with a multidisciplinary membership representing diversity in expertise and unity in adoption of a population health perspective in their research efforts. SBM past presidents Lisa M. Klesges, PhD, and C. Tracy Orleans, PhD, both of whom were founding members of the PHS SIG, have championed population health science and within our society. In her presidential keynote at the 2015 Annual Meeting, Dr. Klesges described the role that SBM has played in building an evidence base in behavioral medicine and highlighted the opportunities before us as a professional society to have an impact on population health. Dr. Orleans led the PHS SIG breakfast roundtable at that same annual meeting, which focused on the role of behavioral medicine in improving population health. The session featured the emerging priorities at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation around building a culture of health.

Emerging leaders in SBM are also active members of the PHS SIG. Members Courtney Pinard, PhD, and Carmen Radecki Breitkopf, PhD, were recently accepted into the inaugural SBM Leadership Institute for mid-career members. Dr. Pinard's work aims to make an impact on populations through an overarching emphasis on measurement with expertise in areas such as food access, food insecurity, and obesity prevention. She is currently working on projects that focus on the food system in Michigan. The first is creating shared measures across entities in order to reduce organizational burden and better identify populations in need of better food access. The second is evaluating the impact of the Double Up Food Bucks program. Dr. Radecki Breitkopf's research is focused on psychological and behavioral aspects of cancer prevention among minority and vulnerable populations. This work informs patient-centered approaches to health care delivery that address social, cultural, and psychological influences on behavior and health equity across diverse populations.

In contrast to other SIGs, the PHS SIG is not focused on a specific behavior, disease or single population. After all, behavioral medicine is interdisciplinary, and the disciplines represented in SBM are vast. Regardless of a researcher's content area, there are implications for populations. PHS SIG members are encouraged to engage in research topics such as translational research that is focused on developing real-world solutions and policies to improve population health. They are also encouraged to engage in research focused on informing public health efforts with behavioral science or secondary analysis of public data resources to examine trends in population health by geographic regions, population subgroups, and socio-environmental factors.

In 2016, partnership opportunities will be explored with other SIGs or councils for the 38th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions in 2017. This will encourage researchers to bridge a connection between their content area and a population health research approach.

Please join us at the PHS SIG Breakfast Roundtable on Thursday, March 31, from 7:15 a.m. to 8 a.m., at SBM's 37th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions.